Feed prices are soaring: Now what do we do?

You have undoubtedly seen the evidence on your bills. Feed prices are skyrocketing, particularly for soybean by-products since October 2020. The increase in prices can be attributed to a number of factors, including lower than usual stocks, a difficult harvest season in major soybean-producing countries, and large quantities purchased by China.

Given that soybean meal is the most widely used protein source in the world, its price influences that of other protein feeds. Likewise, dairy producers are not the sole users of soybean meal; poultry and swine producers are in fact the two largest consumer groups. With everyone looking for alternative protein feeds, the price of all protein sources is inevitably going to rise.

How high will prices go? The coming months will be telling… In the meantime, we’re allowed to gripe a little, but ultimately we need to remind ourselves that we have no control over the underlying factors. So now what do we do? We work on what we can control, of course!

What we can control

The first step is to determine how your operation is handling the situation. Feed costs are increasing for all farms, but have they gone up more or less on your farm compared to others? Calculating your feed margin will answer that question for you. Lactanet’s database allows you to compare your data with those of other farms for this period in time.

The next thing to do is to look for solutions! The key is to try to reduce feed costs as much as possible while maximizing milk production for the same level of concentrates. We’ve provided a checklist below that could help you improve the situation on your farm. The first items on the list are the simplest, with the potenetial to produce quick results. We tend to think that simple solutions won’t have a big impact, but in fact it’s just the opposite!

  1. Calibrate the concentrate feeder and the mixer
  2. Reuse refusals for yearling heifers
  3. Sharpen mixer blades regularly (check every 3 months or as required)
  4. Verify grain milling
  5. Re-evaluate Feed bunk management
  6. Evaluate forage intake/substitution effect
  7. Review cow groupings
  8. Review feeding for yearling heifers
  9. Review choice of feed (price in relation to nutritional value)
  10. Evaluate relevance of additives
  11. Review supply management
    1. Quantities ordered
    2. More economical order sizes
    3. Discounts
  12. Sample forages regularly
    1. Every batch, at least once a month (more often for larger herds)
    2. See Section 4 of this guide (in French only) for a review of sampling techniques.

And what should be done next?

After identifying a few feasible solutions for your operation, you will of course need to implement them – and monitor your margin at the same time, to see if your efforts are paying off.


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By Jean-Philippe Laroche, agr., M. Sc.
Jean-Philippe who grew up on a dairy farm is particularly interested in the value of forages by ruminants. Member of Ordre des agronomes, he graduated in agronomy from Laval University in 2018 and also completed a Master's degree in animal sciences, during which he received several distinctions.

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